Last week over 300 United Way Pillars gathered for our annual Celebration at Memorial Stadium's Colonnades Club! Pillars are the foundation of our United Way - last year this incredible group contributed over $2.5 million to support our Community Impact work.
Our guest speaker, Josh Whitman, Director of Athletics at the University of Illinois, shared an inspirational message on leadership. Thank you, Josh and Hope!
Sue Grey, our President & CEO, introduced Josh by sharing a few of her own thoughts on leadership. We're happy to share them with you.
Leadership. When you hear this word, what comes to mind?
I think of the nonprofit organizations that we work with to advance education, health, and financial stability. They take on difficult work with care and passion and are always willing to collaborate. That’s leadership.
I think of our Community Impact Committee and Community Solutions Team, which have supported our organization as we transitioned our grantmaking model to focus on specific community challenges. Throughout it all, they provided thoughtful, expert feedback, and helped us identify Early Grade Level Success, Child Well-Being, and Community Essentials as three of our top priorities. That’s leadership.
I think of our powerhouse Finance Committee, whose careful planning and diligent stewardship of your gifts have positioned us strongly. Thanks to their guidance, over the past few years we have been able to increase our total Community Impact Grant funds awarded by 35%. Last fiscal year we awarded the most Community Impact Grant dollars in our organization’s history. During a time when our community members really needed our support, we were able to do more than ever. That’s leadership.
I think of my team, who come to the office every day fired up to reach and exceed our goals. They are always learning, always listening, always bringing new ideas to the table. That’s leadership.
I think of you, our Pillars. Your support is the foundation of our work. Pillars account for 75% of our annual campaign contributions. Many of you have been giving for over 30 years and are now encouraging your children or grandchildren to become Pillars too. Thank you. That’s leadership.
And lastly, I think of all the leaders who have given and volunteered with our organization over our history. United Way has a big milestone on the horizon - our 100th Anniversary celebration will kick off in July 2023. As we review our past and the work that built the foundation on which we now stand, I am excited to see how this will guide us into the next 100 years. I can’t wait to see how we will work together to make sure that United Way will be here for years to come. We will continue to need strong leadership. Thank you for being by our side.